City too good for Napoli

UEFA Champions League
Manchester City 2 Napoli 1

THEY say "see Naples and die".

But at the Etihad Stadium, the city’s football team didn't prove quite so intimidating.

Pep Guardiola's men put paid to any notion that the Italians, who sit at the top of Serie A, may have poised too big a threat.

Manchester City didn't have it all their own way, however, having swept aside Watford, Crystal Palace and Stoke City in recent weeks.

The men from Italy's boot were a different prospect, arriving in Manchester with a maximum 24 points from their opening eight league fixtures.

Both teams are the highest scorers in Europe's top five leagues.

Yet City were already two-up by the 15th minute, thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.

Napoli could count themselves fortunate not to have taken a point, having missed a penalty in the first-half and creating a number of chances in the second.

City, fresh from annihilating Stoke 7-2 on Saturday, were quickest out of the blocks and opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Kyle Walker's shot was blocked by Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

The ball fell back to Sterling, whose shot beat Pepe Reina in the visitors' goal.

The forward has already scored eight times so far this season.

City doubled their lead just six minutes later.

Kevin De Bruyne, perhaps the vitalist of cogs in City's free scoring machine, outran Raul Albiol, and crossed the ball into the box where Jesus was waiting to side foot it home.

Napoli's feted front three of Jose Maria Callejon, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne could not make their presence felt in front of a resolute and confident City defence during the first half-hour of the game.

And the home side so nearly made it three in the 23rd minute following a mistake by captain Marek Hamsik.

The Slovakian, one short of Diego Maradona's all-time scoring record at the club, let in Fernandinho, whose pass reached City captain David Silva.

But, with a clear run on goal, he failed to connect with the ball.

Napoli's first attacking opportunity led to another chance for City.

Callejon's pass failed to reach Insigne and City quickly raced up the field, with Leroy Sane putting through De Bruyne.

The Belgian launched a thunderous shot, which cannoned off the crossbar.

City's continual high pressing and interceptions were exceptional, yet begged the question as to why Napoli manager Maurzio Sarri left out midfield enforcer Jorginho when his team so clearly needed a bit of grit in the centre of the pitch.

Another chance went begging for City in the 35th minute when Sterling found Jesus in the area.

The Brazilian fired at goal, only to see his effort cleared off the line by Koulibaly.

Napoli enjoyed their best spell in the final 10 minutes of the first-half.

Insigne hit a wonderful ball to Mertens, but City goalkeeper Ederson was first to it.

And they should have pulled a goal back minutes before the break when they were awarded a penalty by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz after Walker wrestled Raul Albiol to the ground inside the box.

Mertens stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, but hit it straight at Ederson's legs.

Napoli, who have never won an away game against English opposition in all competitions, were at the mercy of Sane, Sterling and Jesus, minutes into the second half.

Sane had a shot blocked on the edge of the box, before De Bruyne's through ball to Sterling saw the England man fire it wide.

The visitors, though, began to build momentum.

Hamsik was put through by Mertens, only to see his shot blocked on the line by John Stones, and then Napoli were awarded another penalty when full-back Faouzi Ghoulam was fouled by Fernandinho.

Amadou Diawara, and not Mertens, stepped up to hit the ball past Ederson and pull a goal back.

Ten minutes later, the Etihad held its collective breath when Callejon found Mertens on the edge of the area, but he put the ball wide.

Belgian Mertens then turned provider, threading the ball to substitute Adam Ounas, who was waiting just inside the box.

The Algerian's shot, however, was well caught by Ederson and City, unbeaten in their last 10 Champions League home games, held on for the win, topping their group with three wins out of three.

Napoli will return to Italy with their tails between their legs, sitting third in the group, with just three points from three games.

Guardiola said his team performed well in the first 30 minutes.

He explained: "We became a bit tired after that and didn't finish our little counter attacks and we were late in the second half with our pressing.

"But I am so proud to have beaten them as it is impossible to beat Napoli without a good performance.

"They are so impressive as they play it simple and they rarely looseUEFA Champions League

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; Fernandinho; De Bruyne, Silva (Gundogan, 75), Sterling (B Silva, 68) Sane; Jesus (Danilo, 85).
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Mangala, Toure and Aguero.

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj (Maggio, 68) Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Diawara, Zielinski, Hamsik (Ounas, 77), Callejon, Mertens, Insigne (Allan, 56).
Substitutes not used: Sepe, Maksimovic, Jorginho and Rog.

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